Advanced Analytics 101: Applying Corsi in fantasy hockey

The NHL is slowly becoming more accepting towards advanced analytics. You can find these statistics on the league home page or on other sites such as Corsica.hockey. A very popular statistic thrown around is called Corsi. Corsi measures total shots on net as a percentage of total shots for and against, trying to give us an indication of puck possession in the offensive zone during five-on-five play.

There are a few Corsi variants that are also used in analytics, but to keep it simple we will be looking at the basic Corsi For (CF%). In baseball, it’s easy to apply analytics to improve your fantasy team, but can the same be done for hockey?

For fantasy hockey purposes, we want players that drive their team’s offence while playing on good lines. Looking at the Corsi numbers for each line gives us a better indication of which lines are putting more pucks on the net.

We’re going to take a look at the 20 best even strength lines with the most goals from the 2017-2018 season to see what sticks out.

2017-18 Corsi For

Last season, Colorado’s top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen lead the league with 47 even strength goals, while their Corsi For percentage sat at 51.04% – the second lowest on the list. The St. Louis Blues’ line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko had the highest Corsi For percentage of 59.47%, but only scored 26 goals. That line only played a total of 432.65 minutes together, a 300+ difference from the Colorado line.

So what should we take away from this? High Corsi For percentage doesn’t necessarily lead to more goals. Let’s check out this season to see if it’s more of the same.

2018-19 Corsi For

At the top of this list is the same Colorado trio tied with the Toronto’s top line with 9 even strength goals. MacKinnon’s line isn’t doing as well in the Corsi For department with 44.55%. Carolina’s line of Warren Foegele, Jordan Staal, and Justin Williams have the best Corsi For percentage out of the bunch with 67.66%, but is at the bottom of the list with 4 goals.

It’s still very early in the season so a lot of these names probably won’t stick, so what do we do about a line like Montreal’s? Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, and Brendan Gallagher are posting a very strong 66.89% Corsi For percentage. While I don’t think they will finish amongst the best scoring lines this season, their strong start is justified by their strong Corsi For number.

Some lines that catch my attention are Boston, Vegas, and Nashville. These top lines also posted very good Corsi For numbers last season and are doing so again this season.

What Corsi doesn’t take into consideration is cycling the puck and keeping the puck in the offensive zone. Anyone can throw the puck at the net, but that doesn’t mean it was a good scoring opportunity. If your players are on good lines and performing, their Corsi For numbers probably don’t matter a whole lot.

Looking at the table showing the 2017-18’s numbers, we see all the lines have a Corsi For percentage around the 50’s, with the exception to the New York Islanders’ line of Anders Lee, John Tavares, and Josh Bailey. Now to dig a little deeper, let’s check out the relationship of CF% and goals from 2017-18.

Relationship of CF% and Goals from 2017-18

Based on the plot, there is a very weak correlation between high Corsi For numbers and high number of goals, but lines between the 40-60 range are scoring more. This makes a lot of sense as no lines can consistently dominate the shots on goal.

I wouldn’t stress over Aleksander Barkov’s line having a 43.36 Corsi For percentage. Play the waiver wire based on matchups, linemates, and who’s hot more than their Corsi numbers and you’ll be fine.

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